Nas­sar

The Detroit News - - Front Page -

es and train­ers in 1999, said she felt a sense of val­i­da­tion and re­lief af­ter Nas­sar ad­mit­ted guilt and was given a de facto life­time sen­tence. But she still wants some­one to take re­spon­si­bil­ity at MSU, say­ing that two of the women she com­plained to about Nas­sar are still on staff there.

“I just want them to say some­thing: ‘Yes, we un­der­stand. We’re sorry.’ Just some­thing,” said Thomas Lopez. “I’m just hope­ful that some­thing will be said soon.”

Nas­sar was once a revered MSU os­teo­pathic doc­tor who took care of ath­letes, pri­mar­ily gym­nasts, in­clud­ing Olympic cham­pi­ons.

Though he claimed to be us­ing tech­niques that in­volved ad­just­ing the body to help it heal, his sur­vivors said he sex­u­ally as­saulted them by dig­i­tally pen­e­trat­ing them with­out a glove. When some com­plained, they were dis­missed or si­lenced, al­low­ing Nas­sar to con­tinue to prey on girls for decades.

In Au­gust 2016, for­mer Kala­ma­zoo res­i­dent Rachael Den­hol­lan­der be­came the first per­son whom au­thor­i­ties be­lieved when she re­ported that Nas­sar sex­u­ally as­saulted her when she was a 15year-old gym­nast. She told MSU po­lice and the In­di­anapo­lis Star — and Nas­sar’s life started to un­ravel.

The child pornog­ra­phy emerged af­ter MSU fired Nas­sar in Septem­ber 2016 and he turned in his work lap­top com­puter that had been wiped com­pletely clean, in­clud­ing the op­er­at­ing sys­tem. While ex­e­cut­ing a search war­rant at his home in Holt, south of Lans­ing, MSU po­lice dis­cov­ered ex­ter­nal hard drives with more than 37,000 images and videos of child pornog­ra­phy that had been thrown away in Nas­sar’s garage can in front of his house on trash col­lec­tion day.

The drives in­cluded images and videos of girls mostly un­der the age of 12, in­clud­ing some as young as 6. There were also videos with chil­dren where Nas­sar was grab­bing a hand of one girl and shov­ing it into the crotch of an­other.

Nas­sar ini­tially pleaded not guilty but then ad­mit­ted guilt in July to pos­sess­ing the child pornog­ra­phy.

Neff com­mented on the stag­ger­ing num­ber of images and said she had never seen any­thing like it.

Un­der fed­eral law, Neff was able to con­sider the scope of Nas­sar’s crimes, in­clud­ing his sex­ual as­sault of young girls by dig­i­tal pen­e­tra­tion dur­ing med­i­cal vis­its, to which he ad­mit­ted guilt last month. While the 10 charges of first-de­gree crim­i­nal sex­ual as­sault he ad­mit­ted to in­volve nine young women, nearly 150 young women have come for­ward, al­leg­ing that he sex­u­ally as­saulted them.

Sev­eral are Olympic gym­nasts, in­clud­ing Aly Rais­man, McKayla Maroney and Gabby Dou­glas, who said dur­ing tele­vi­sion in­ter­views or on so­cial me­dia that he as­saulted them.

Many were in the court­room, in­clud­ing Maroney, watch­ing the mile­stone day of reck­on­ing for Nas­sar.

“To­day, the court holds jus­tice for vic­tims here, and across the coun­try,” Neff said. “Fash­ion­ing a sen­tence to pun­ish, de­ter ... and make sure this man will never harm a child again.”

Be­fore Nas­sar was sen­tenced, he said he had been bat­tling a de­sire for child pornog­ra­phy, call­ing it “the skele­tons in my closet.”

“It’s some­thing I’m ashamed of. ... I lost ev­ery­thing be­cause of this,” he said. “I chose wrongly.”

He also said that he looked back and won­dered how he got on this road, even as he tried im­prove him­self.

“I re­ally tried to be a good per­son. I re­ally tried to help peo­ple,” Nas­sar said. “I hope one day I can be for­given.”

The judge em­pathized with the vic­tims and their fam­i­lies, say­ing that she was a mother of two daugh­ters and couldn’t imag­ine the an­guish they en­dured.

She also spoke of how he vi­o­lated the ba­sic tenet of medicine to do no harm, in­stead harm­ing so many and de­stroy­ing their trust.

Neff also noted how Nas­sar was priv­i­leged to have a good ed­u­ca­tion, ca­reer, rep­u­ta­tion and fam­ily and won­dered where this dark side of him came from.

“He in­flicted deep wounds on help­less chil­dren,” Neff said. “It is im­per­a­tive Mr. Nas­sar be de- terred for as long as pos­si­ble. ... He should never again have ac­cess to chil­dren.”

Matt New­burg, an at­tor­ney for Nas­sar, said af­ter­ward his client was “dev­as­tated” by the sen­tence and his other at­tor­ney, Shan­non Smith, said he would ap­peal.

“At this point, he truly has noth­ing to lose,” Smith said, adding that she and New­burg would not rep­re­sent him in an ap­peal.

Nas­sar walked out of court with his head down af­ter Neff de­liv­ered his sen­tence, the first for his crimes. He also faces sen­tenc­ing from state judges in Ing­ham and Ea­ton coun­ties next month.

U.S. At­tor­ney An­drew Birge held a press con­fer­ence with FBI of­fi­cials and MSU po­lice to speak about Nas­sar’s sen­tence, but de­clined to ad­dress whether they would in­ves­ti­gate MSU or other in­sti­tu­tions.

Later, MSU of­fi­cials is­sued a state­ment af­ter Nas­sar’s sen­tenc­ing.

“Larry Nas­sar’s sen­tenc­ing to­day on fed­eral child pornog­ra­phy charges rep­re­sents an­other im­por­tant step to­ward jus­tice for the vic­tims,” said MSU spokesman Ja­son Cody. “As our presi- dent has said, we rec­og­nize the pain sex­ual vi­o­lence causes and deeply re­gret any time some­one in our com­mu­nity ex­pe­ri­ences it. We ac­knowl­edge it takes real courage for all vic­tims of sex­ual vi­o­lence who come for­ward to share their story. His be­hav­ior was deeply dis­turb­ing and re­pug­nant, as the state and fed­eral crim­i­nal charges that he has been con­victed of show.”

Den­hol­lan­der, how­ever, said that time and again MSU has failed to take re­spon­si­bil­ity, such as when Wil­liam Stram­pel, dean of MSU’s Col­lege of Os­teo­pathic Medicine, mocked her com­plaint and told Nas­sar he was on his side.

She said girls who spoke up be­fore her were si­lenced and as­sured that what Nas­sar was do­ing was a valid med­i­cal treat­ment.

She has been plead­ing for an­swers from MSU and USGA for months as to how Nas­sar was al­lowed to sex­u­ally as­sault young women for so long.

“Their re­sponse has been heart­break­ing,” Den­hol­lan­der said, “be­cause it re­minds me again and again that our voices do not mat­ter.”

Katy Bat­dorff / Spe­cial to the Detroit News

Larry Nas­sar vic­tims Rachael Den­hol­lan­der, cen­ter left, Ster­ling Ri­eth­man, Kaylee Lor­incz, Jeanette An­tolin, and Tiffany Thomas Lopez talk to the press af­ter the for­mer MSU doc­tor’s sen­tenc­ing in the child porn case. He still faces sen­tenc­ing in the sex as­sault cases.

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